originally published in Sound Waves Magazine July 2019
You can hear it in the distance over the din of the never sleeping highway. It floats over the trees and across the fields. It comes in and out, but you know it’s there. Sometimes the wind blows the echo away a little but then blows it right back toward you. People are screaming and chanting as the thump thump of a bass drum keeps time. You know what it is, and you want to be there. You can’t smell the hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken on the grill, but you can image them. The keg is on ice. Coolers are full of all sorts of delights. Huge slices of watermelon are laid out. The potato salad is moist. People are diving into the pool. Later there will be fireworks.
There’s a band in a backyard in a faraway neighborhood and they are quite loud. As loud as they want to be. It’s a glorious thing. For the band, there’s no BS, no pressure, and nobody telling you to turn down. They can play as loud as they want, in most towns, until 10 pm.
At a gig the other night word on the street was that the band was too loud. As is customary when we hear such a complaint, we act like we’re turning the knobs on the mixing board when in actuality, we ain’t movin’ a darn thing. Nobody puts baby in corner, as it were. Turning down in the middle of a gig ruins the vibe, detracts from our mission, and it just doesn’t ever go well. The performance goes south, things take a turn, and you can’t recover. So, like most bands that have ever played in the history of all time, requests for turning down are just ignored.
I spoke to a guy at the bar about these volume requests and he agreed with me. “I like it when the band is too loud. It means I don’t have to overhear all the stuff around me: couples fighting, bartenders, waitresses and waiters complaining about customers, business deals going down, and guys getting drunk and saying really stupid things. Bands should always be too loud.”
So there it is. Bands ain’t jukeboxes.
Outdoor venues in the middle of downtown areas where people are trying to live and sleep is a little tricky though when bands are too loud. I would argue that bands will ALWAYS be too loud after 10 pm, and this reality can shut businesses down. I would also argue that if you don’t want to hear the music coming from venues in downtown areas, you should move to the suburbs.
And when you hear a backyard band through the trees, you’re probably going to want to be there.